Facebook’s Generation Clash

21 Jul

Or, the First Time Ever that Kids Tell Adults to Get off the Lawn

No adults allowed unless accompanied by children

Photo credit to tymesynk

When I joined Facebook, it was a place created by college kids, for college kids.  It was our own personal club house that all but had a “No Adults Allowed” sign posted on the door.  But, times have changed and now Facebook’s open to everyone (except, officially, those under thirteen).

But, just because Facebook now accepts (almost) all comers, doesn’t mean that it’s a place where its various constituent groups interact easily.  Facebook’s for high schoolers, college kids, and adults; but the high school and college kids probably wish that the adults weren’t on the invite list. 

Currently, Facebook’s experiencing a “youth flight.” High school kids are abandoning their digital homes as their parents move into the neighborhood.  They’re going to Twitter, which has yet to become generationally integrated, or at least parentally integrated.

Parents on FacebookAs someone’s who’s now firmly in the “adult on Facebook” camp, I want to say, “Can’t we all just get along?”  But, recently, I gained some insight into the teenage perspective on the matter.  My sixteen year old sister showed me this, which had appeared on her newsfeed.

This Facebook interaction, between a girl soon to be heading off to college and the mother of her future roommate was much discussed in my family.  My sister laughed and felt bad for her friend.  My aunts said that contacting the roommate took it too far, but they would totally creep on her profile.  My cousin and I said that this was enough to make you want to request a new roommate, because hello boundaries.  Everyone admitted that the girl had about the nicest, politest response that you could expect from a kid in that situation.

No adults or children allowed by speedwayster

Photo credit to speedwayster

Clearly, the mother stepped over one of those invisible, intergenerational Facebook boundaries.  Even if you’re friends with someone, there are rules as to which of their posts are for you – where your comments are welcome and where they’re not.  If I post a picture or a link on my sister’s wall, her friend’s are welcome to comment on; but the same doesn’t hold in reverse.  That would make me, in my sister’s eyes at least, a creepy adult who’s paying entirely too much attention to what goes on with her friends.

In the real world, my sister and I are of the same generation.  We grew up in the same house, watched the same TV shows, and laugh at the same 90s Boy Meets World References.  But, Facebook slices and dices generations even more finely than do sociologists.  Facebook has created a world that allows us to define our own social circle, allowing us to close our ears and hold our eyes to the contributions of community members who don’t appeal to us.

Friendship Circle by Farid Iqbal

Photo credit to Farid Iqbal

Largely, we fill our circle with people like ourselves, and anyone who doesn’t seem to fit with our perception of our peers can feel like an outsider.  And, it’s not just high school kids that feel that way.  Even though they might see me and an interloping adult, I feel the same way when I see a friend’s parent appear on my newsfeed.

No matter which generation you’re in, we’re all in this together, rubbing along and defining the norms for our new social world order.  Right now, these rules are still undefined, and we bump into each other and have these awkward interactions.  But, we’ll get there.

Questions of the day: Are you Facebook friends with anyone outside of your age group?  How do you manage your interactions so that you’re both comfortable?  Would having your new roommate’s mom send you that message freak you out?

Formerly MaggieCakes, Maggie (not Margaret) covers technology’s impact on culture, specifically on how we interact or connect with each other. Have a question or an idea you’d like me to write about? Leave a comment, or send me an e-mail: moc.teragramtoneiggam@eiggam

2 Responses to “Facebook’s Generation Clash”

  1. lostintheservice July 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I’m 24, and I actually tailor my Facebook posts, to a certain degree, to those I want to have the information. I don’t go as far as Google+ and their overly complicated Circles, but I have certain 50+ year-old friends and family members on a ‘Limited’ profile lists, and so the majority of my posts do not appear to them. I think that’s the kindest way to accept their friend request without creating awkward interactions. And the best part is that many of them don’t even use Facebook often enough to know the difference.

    I do think it’s going to get more difficult as 20-somethings start becoming 30-somethings with their own kids who are starting to use Facebook…because we’ll probably know a lot more than our parents did about these things. However, the technology might be totally different by then, so perhaps it will just be a different version of the same situation!


  1. You Can’t Become a Digital Native « Maggie (Not Margaret) - August 2, 2012

    […] I wrote about Facebook’s generation clash, in which teens are abandoning Facebook as their parents embrace it.  But, there’s another […]

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